` Voice of America and the Voice of the People Since 1941 One Person and his Recollections ‘

#AceHistory2Research – UNITED STATED – April 14 – On a grey day between the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and Christmas 1941, while a research assistant at the Harvard Law School, I was walking across Harvard Yard and was stopped by Professor William Langer, a professor of German History, who asked me: “Walter, you know German, don’t you”? I answered in the affirmative. “We need people like you”, he continued. “Would you like to work for the US Government”? I answered in the affirmative again. “OK, you will hear from us”, he said, and we both went on our way.

Early in the New Year 1942, I received a letter from the Coordinator of Information (COI) inviting me to come to Washington. Meanwhile, I heard that Professor Langer had signed up with U. S. intelligence. So I assumed that my interview in Washington would relate to a possible job in intelligence.

I remember taking the overnight train from Boston to Washington and seeing a number of people there but was told at the end of the day that a possible job would be in New York. The man I was supposed to see there was Edd Johnson. An appointment was arranged for the following day at 270 Madison Avenue.

It had become clear to me that the agency I was dealing with (COI) had both intelligence and information functions with the former apparently concentrated in Washington, while the latter were directed from New York.

Edd Johnson, who headed the Research and Analysis section, came across as a stern, no nonsense man who got to the point immediately stating that the COI was in the process of preparing broadcasts in German, and that it was essential for the writers to know the propaganda climate to which they would be broadcasting. Could I reconstruct the weekly internal propaganda directive of the German Ministry of Propaganda, he asked. I answered that I probably could, provided I had the necessary material, i.e. the most recent German newspapers and transcripts of German internal radio broadcasts. I recalled that while still living in Europe, I used to listen to a weekly broadcast by Hans Fritzsche (one of Dr. Goebbels’ senior assistants) who seemed to read the weekly propaganda directive directly to the German people every Friday evening. I wondered whether Fritzsche was still on the air. Johnson said that he would try to assemble the necessary material by asking the American Legation in Bern, Switzerland, to provide it. He told me that he would be in touch with me when the newspapers and radio transcripts arrived.

I returned to my job at Harvard. Within a couple of weeks, I was asked to come back to New York. All the material was there, including the weekly newspaper Das Reich that, in its editorial, practically duplicated the weekly broadcasts of Hans Fritzsche. In the next few hours, I tried to reconstruct, on the basis of the material received, the latest weekly directive that Goebbels and company had written, which was designed to keep the morale of the German people at its highest possible level.

Edd Johnson read it and asked me to come with him to see James Warburg, who he said, was in charge of policy. At the end of the meeting, I was told that they would let me know in a few days whether I would be offered a job.

The Dean of the Harvard Law School knew of my visits to Washington and New York. When the offer from the COI came, I suggested that I spend a day or two a week in New York and move there after the Harvard semester was over. Harvard found this arrangement acceptable, as did COI, which, in any event, needed some additional time to clear me for a civil service position, in that I was still an alien at that time.

Once on the job, I realized that foreign information work was a new activity for the United States Government. I also became aware that the vital wherewithal was lacking – the U. S. Government did not own a single short wave transmitter.

Read More of: Dr. Walter R. Roberts started his government career with the Voice of America. He retired from the government after serving as Associate Director of the U.S. Information Agency. President George H. W. Bush appointed and President Bill Clinton reappointed him as member of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. He is the author of Tito, Mihailovic and the Allies, 1941-1945 and numerous articles on foreign policy. http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2009/1012/fsl/roberts_voice.html

#ah2rn2014, #dr-walter-r-roberts, #new-york, #us, #voa, #voice-of-america-voa, #washington

” People’s Republic of China”

"China Map"

#AceHistoryNews says on October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was formally established, with its national capital at Beijing. “The Chinese people have stood up!” declared Mao as he announced the creation of a “people’s democratic dictatorship.” The people were defined as a coalition of four social classes: the workers, the peasants, the petite bourgeoisie, and the national-capitalists. The four classes were to be led by the CCP, as the vanguard of the working class. At that time the CCP claimed a membership of 4.5 million, of which members of peasant origin accounted for nearly 90 percent. The party was under Mao’s chairmanship, and the government was headed by Zhou Enlai ( 1898-1976) as premier of the State Administrative Council (the predecessor of the State Council).

The Soviet Union recognized the People’s Republic on October 2, 1949. Earlier in the year, Mao had proclaimed his policy of “leaning to one side” as a commitment to the socialist bloc. In February 1950, after months of hard bargaining, China and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance, valid until 1980. The pact also was intended to counter Japan or any power’s joining Japan for the purpose of aggression.

For the first time in decades a Chinese government was met with peace, instead of massive military opposition, within its territory. The new leadership was highly disciplined and, having a decade of wartime administrative experience to draw on, was able to embark on a program of national integration and reform. In the first year of Communist administration, moderate social and economic policies were implemented with skill and effectiveness. The leadership realized that the overwhelming and multitudinous task of economic reconstruction and achievement of political and social stability required the goodwill and cooperation of all classes of people. Results were impressive by any standard, and popular support was widespread.

Chinese Peoples VolunteersBy 1950 international recognition of the Communist government had increased considerably, but it was slowed by China’s involvement in the Korean War. In October 1950, sensing a threat to the industrial heartland in northeast China from the advancing United Nations (UN) forces in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), units of the PLA–calling themselves the Chinese People’s Volunteers–crossed the YaluJiang () River into North Korea in response to a North Korean request for aid. Almost simultaneously the PLA forces also marched into Xizang to reassert Chinese sovereignty over a region that had been in effect independent of Chinese rule since the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911. In 1951 the UN declared China to be an aggressor in Korea and sanctioned a global embargo on the shipment of arms and war material to China. This step foreclosed for the time being any possibility that the People’s Republic might replace Nationalist China (on Taiwan) as a member of the UN and as a veto-holding member of the UN Security Council.

Korean WarAfter China entered the Korean War, the initial moderation in Chinese domestic policies gave way to a massive campaign against the “enemies of the state,” actual and potential. These enemies consisted of “war criminals, traitors, bureaucratic capitalists, and counterrevolutionaries.” The campaign was combined with party-sponsored trials attended by huge numbers of people. The major targets in this drive were foreigners and Christian missionaries who were branded as United States agents at these mass trials. The 1951-52 drive against political enemies was accompanied by land reform, which had actually begun under the Agrarian Reform Law of June 28, 1950. The redistribution of land was accelerated, and a class struggle landlords and wealthy peasants was launched. An ideological reform campaign requiring self-criticisms and public confessions by university faculty members, scientists, and other professional workers was given wide publicity. Artists and writers were soon the objects of similar treatment for failing to heed Mao’s dictum that culture and literature must reflect the class interest of the working people, led by the CCP. These campaigns were accompanied in 1951 and 1952 by the san fan ( or “three anti”) and wu fan ( or “five anti”) movements. The former was directed ostensibly against the evils of “corruption, waste, and bureaucratism”; its real aim was to eliminate incompetent and politically unreliable public officials and to bring about an efficient, disciplined, and responsive bureaucratic system. The wu fan movement aimed at eliminating recalcitrant and corrupt businessmen and industrialists, who were in effect the targets of the CCP’s condemnation of “tax evasion, bribery, cheating in government contracts, thefts of economic intelligence, and stealing of state assets.” In the course of this campaign the party claimed to have uncovered a well-organized attempt by businessmen and industrialists to corrupt party and government officials. This charge was enlarged into an assault on the bourgeoisie . The number of people affected by the various punitive or reform campaigns was estimated in the millions.

The Transition to Socialism, 1953-57

Communism and CapitalismThe period of officially designated “transition to socialism” corresponded to China’s First Five-Year Plan (1953-57). The period was characterized by efforts to achieve industrialization, collectivization of agriculture, and political centralization.

The First Five-Year Plan stressed the development of heavy industry on the Soviet model. Soviet economic and technical assistance was expected to play a significant part in the implementation of the plan, and technical agreements were signed with the Soviets in 1953 and 1954. For the purpose of economic planning, the first modern census was taken in 1953; the population of mainland China was shown to be 583 million, a figure far greater than had been anticipated.

Among China’s most pressing needs in the early 1950s were food for its burgeoning population, domestic capital for investment, and purchase of Soviet-supplied technology, capital equipment, and military hardware. To satisfy these needs, the government began to collectivize agriculture. Despite internal disagreement about the speed of collectivization, which at least for the time being was resolved in Mao’s favor, preliminary collectivization was 90 percent completed by the end of 1956. In addition, the government nationalized banking, industry, and trade. Private enterprise in mainland China was virtually abolished.

Major political developments included the centralization of party and government administration. Elections were held in 1953 for delegates to the First National People’s Congress, China’s national legislature, which met in 1954. The congress promulgated the state constitution of 1954 and formally elected Mao chairman (or president) of the People’s Republic; it elected Liu Shaoqi ( 1898-1969) chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress; and named Zhou Enlai premier of the new State Council.

In the midst of these major governmental changes, and helping to precipitate them, was a power struggle within the CCP leading to the 1954 purge of Political Bureau member Gao Gang () and Party Organization Department head Rao Shushi (), who were accused of illicitly trying to seize control of the party.

The process of national integration also was characterized by improvements in party organization under the administrative direction of the secretary-general of the party Deng Xiaoping ( who served concurrently as vice premier of the State Council). There was a marked emphasis on recruiting intellectuals, who by 1956 constituted nearly 12 percent of the party’s 10.8 million members. Peasant membership had decreased to 69 percent, while there was an increasing number of “experts” , who were needed for the party and governmental infrastructures, in the party ranks.

As part of the effort to encourage the participation of intellectuals in the new regime, in mid-1956 there began an official effort to liberalize the political climate. Cultural and intellectual figures were encouraged to speak their minds on the state of CCP rule and programs. Mao personally took the lead in the movement, which was launched under the classical slogan “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred schools of thought contend” (). At first the party’s repeated invitation to air constructive views freely and openly was met with caution. By mid-1957, however, the movement unexpectedly mounted, bringing denunciation and criticism against the party in general and the excesses of its cadres in particular. Startled and embarrassed, leaders turned on the critics as “bourgeois rightist” () and launched the Anti-Rightist Campaign. The Hundred Flowers Campaign , sometimes called the Double Hundred Campaign (), apparently had a sobering effect on the CCP leadership.

Historical Timeline:

Dates Dynasty
ca. 2000-1500 B.C. Xia
1700-1027 B.C. Shang
1027-771 B.C. Western Zhou  
770-221 B.C. Eastern Zhou  
770-476 B.C. — Spring and Autumn period  
475-221 B.C. — Warring States period  
221-207 B.C. Qin
206 B.C.-A.D. 9 Western Han  
A.D. 9-24 Xin (Wang Mang interregnum)
A.D. 25-220 Eastern Han  
A.D. 220-280 Three Kingdoms
220-265 — Wei
221-263 — Shu
229-280 — Wu
A.D. 265-316 Western Jin  
A.D. 317-420 Eastern Jin  
A.D. 420-588 Southern and Northern Dynasties   
420-588 Southern Dynasties  
420-478 — Song
479-501 — Qi
502-556 — Liang
557-588 — Chen
386-588 Northern Dynasties  
386-533 — Northern Wei  
534-549 — Eastern Wei  
535-557 — Western Wei  
550-577 — Northern Qi  
557-588 — Northern Zhou  
A.D. 581-617 Sui
A.D. 618-907 Tang
A.D. 907-960 Five Dynasties
907-923 — Later Liang  
923-936 — Later Tang  
936-946 — Later Jin  
947-950 — Later Han  
951-960 — Later Zhou  
A.D. 907-979 Ten Kingdoms
A.D. 960-1279 Song
960-1127 — Northern Song  
1127-1279 — Southern Song  
A.D. 916-1125 Liao
A.D. 1038-1227 Western Xia  
A.D. 1115-1234 Jin
A.D. 1279-1368 Yuan
A.D. 1368-1644 Ming
A.D. 1644-1911 Qing
A.D. 1911-1949 Republic of China (in mainland China)
A.D. 1949- Republic of China (in Taiwan)
A.D. 1949- People’s Republic of China


Chinese history is a vast field of intellectual inquiry. Advances in archaeology and documentary research constantly produce new results and numerous new publications. An excellent and concise survey of the entire course of Chinese history up to the 1970s is China: Tradition and Transformation by John K. Fairbank and Edwin O. Reischauer. For a more in-depth review of modern Chinese history (beginning of the Qing dynasty to the early 1980s), Immanuel C.Y. Hsu’s The Rise of Modern China should be consulted. Hsu’s book is particularly useful for its chapter-by-chapter bibliography. Maurice Meisner’s Mao’s China and After: A History of the People’s Republic presents a comprehensive historical analysis of post-1949 China and provides a selected bibliography.

There are a number of excellent serial publications covering Chinese history topics. These include China QuarterlyChinese Studies in History, and Journal of Asian Studies. The Association for Asian Studies’ annual Bibliography of Asian Studies provides the most comprehensive list of monographs, collections of documents, and articles on Chinese history.

Another good source of bibliographic information can be found at Chinese Cultural Studies: Bibliographical Guide.

A more detailed bibliography is given below


Barnett, A. Doak. Uncertain Pasage: China’s Transition to the Post- Mao Era. Washington: Brookings Institution, 1974

Baum, Richard. Prelude to Revolution: Mao, the Party and the Pea- ant Question. New York: Columbia University Press, 1975.

Bedeski, Robert E. “The Evolution of the Modern State in China: Na- tionalist and Communist Continuities,” World Politics, XVII, No. 4, July 1975, 541-68.

Bianco, Lucien. “People’s China: 25 Years. ‘Fu-chiang’ and Red Fer- vor,” Problems of Communism, XIII, September-October 1974, 2-9.

Bridgham, Philip. “The Fall of Lin Piao,” China Quarterly [London], No. 55, July-September 1973, 427-49.

Butterfield, Fox. “The Pendulum in Peking Swings Far–Both Ways,” New York Times, December 3, 1978, sect- 4, 1-

Chang, Chun-Shu. The Making of China: Main Themes in Premodern Chinese History. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1975.

Chang, Parris H. Power and Policy in China. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1975.

Chesneaux, Jean. China: The People’s Republic, 1949-1976. (Tr., Paul Auster and Lydia Davis.) New York: Pantheon, 1979.

Clubb, O. Edmund, et al. “The People’s Republic of China, 1976,” Current History, 71, No. 419, September I976, 49ff.

Coye, Molly Joel, and Jon Livingston (eds.). China Yesterday and Today. (2d ed.) New York: Bantam Books, 1979.

Cranmer-Byng, John. “The Chinese View of Their Place in the World: An Historical Perspctive,” China Quarterly [London], No. 53, January-March 1973, 67-79.

Dittmer, Lowell. “Bases of Power in Chinese Politics: A Theory and an Analysis of the Fall of the ‘Gang of Four’,” World Politics, XX, No. 4, October 1978, 26-60.

——. Liu Shao-ch’i and the Chinese Cultural Revolution: The Politics of Mass Criticism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.

Domes, Jurgen. The Internal Politics of China, 1 949-1972. London:

C. Hurst, 1973.

——. “People’s China: 25 Years. The Pattern of Politics,” Problems of Communism, XIII, September-October 1974, 20-25.

Domes, Jurgen (ed.). China after the Cultural Revolution: Politics between Two Party Congresses. (With a contribution by MarieLuise Nath.) Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.

Dreyer, June Teufel. “China’s Quest for a Socialist Solution,” Problems of Communism, XIV, September-October 1975, 49-62.

Eberhard, Wolfram. A History of China. (4th ed.) Berkeley: Univer- sity of California Press, 1977.

Egashira, K. “Chinese-Style Socialism: Some Aspects of its Origin and Structure,” Asian Survey, 15, No. 11, November 1975, 981-95.

Elvin; Mark. The Pattern of the Chinese Pat. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973.

Fairbank, John K., Edwin O. Reischauer, and Albert Craig. East Asia: The Modern Transformation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965.

——. A History of East Asia Civilization. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973.

Gayn, Mark. “People’s China: 25 Years. A View from the Village,” Problems of Communism, XIII, September-October 1974, 10-15.

——. “Who after Mao?” Foreign Affairs, 51, No. 2, January 1973, 300-309.

Gittings, John. “New Light on Mao: His View of the World,” China Quarterly, [London], No. 60, October-December 1974, 750-66.

——. Peking Exacts Price for Company Hanoi Keeps, Manchester Guardian WeeIdy [Manchester, England], February 25, 1979, 7 –

——. The World and China, 1922-1972. New York: Harper and Row, 1974.

Goodman, David S. G. “China after Chou,” World Today [London], 32, No. 6, June 1976, 203-13.

——. “China: The Politics of Succession,” World Today [London], 33, No, 4. April 1977, 131-40.

Han, Suyin. The Mornng Deluge: Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Revolution, 1893-1953. London: Jonathan Cape, 1972.

——. Wind in the Tower: Mao Tsctung and the Chinese Revolution 1949-1975. Boston: Little, Brown, 1976.

Harding, Harry, Jr. “Asian Communism in Flux: China after Mao,” Problems of Communism, XVI, March-April 1977, 1-18.

——. “China: The lst Year Without Mao,” Contemporary China, No. 2, Spring 1978, 81-98.

——. China: The Uncertain Future. (Headline Series, No. 223.) New York: Foreign Policy Association, December 1974.

Hearn, Maxwell K. “An Ancient Chinese Army Rises from Underground Sentinel Duty,” Smithsonian, 10, No. 8, November 1979, 38-51.

Hinton, Harold C. (ed.). The People’s Republic of China: A Handbook. Boulder: Westview Press, 1979.

Hsiung, James C. Ideology and Practice: The Evolution of Chinese Communism. New York: Praeger, 1970.

Hsu, Cho-yun. “Early Chinese History: The State of the Field,” Jourmal of Asian Studies, XXVIII, No. 3, May 1979, 453-75-

Hsu, Immanuel C. Y. The Rise of Modern China. (2d ed.) New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Hucker, Charles O. China to 1850: A Short History. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1978.

Johnson, Chalmers (ed.). Ideology and Politics in Contemporary China. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1973.

Kim, Ilpyong J. The Politics of Chinese Communism: Kiangsi under the Soviets. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.

La Dany, L. “People’s China: 25 Years. Shrinking Political Life,” Problems of Communism, XXIII, September-October 1974, 25-28.

“Letter from a Chinese College,” New York Review, September 25, 1980, 3.

Levenson, Joseph R., and Framz Schurmann. China: An Interpretative History from the Beginnings to the Fall of Han. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.

Li, Dun J. The Ageless Chinese: A History. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.

Lieberthal, Kenncth. “China in 1975: The Internal Political Scene,” Problems of Communism, XIV, May-June 1975, 1-1 1 –

Lindsay, Michael. “Analysis of the Pcople’s Republic of China,” Asia Quarterly [Brussels], 2, 1975, 153-74.

——. “The Chinese Communist Party: History and Doctrines.” Pages 123-96 in Yuan-li Wu (ed.), China: A Handbook. New York: Praeger, 1973.

Liu, James T. C. Political Institutions in Traditional China: Major Issucs. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1974.

Locwe, Michael. Imperial China: The Historical Background to the Modern Age. New York: Praeger, 1966.

Louis, Victor. The Coming Decline of the Chinese Empire. New York: Times Books, 1979.

MacFarquhar, Roderick. “China after the l0th Congress,” World Today [London], 29, No. 12, December 1973, 514-26.

Maitan, Livio. Party, Army, and Masses in China: A Marxist interpretation of the Cultural Revolution and Its Aftermath. London: New Left Books, 1976.

Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China: A History of the People’s Republic, III. (Transformation of Modern China Series.) New York: Free Press, 1977.

Michael, Franz. “China after the Cultural Revolution: The Unresolved Succession Crisis,” Orbis, XVII, No. 2, Summer 1973, 315-33.

Mullin, Chris. “Undermining the Great Wall of China,” Guardian [Manchester, England], June 10, 1979, 8.

Oksenberg, Michel. “Mao’s Policy Commitments, 1921-1976,”  Problems of Communism, XV, November-December 1979, 1-26.

Oksenberg, Michel, and Steven Goldstein. “The Chinese Political Spectrum,” Problems of Communism, XIII, March-April 1974, 1-13.

Onate, Andres D. Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist Party. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1979-

Pye, Lucian W. “Mao Tse-tung’s Leadership Style,” Political Science Quarterly, 91, No. 2, Summer 1976, 219-36.

Qi, Wen. China: A General Survey. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1979.

Reischauer, Edwin O. “The Sinic World in Perspective,” Foreign Af- fairs, 52, No. 2, January 1974, 341-48.

Reischauer, Edwin O., and John K. Fairbank. The Great Tradition, I: A History of Eat Asian Civilization. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960.

Rice, Edward E. Mao’s Way. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972.

——- Peoples’ China: 25 Years. A Radical Break with the Past,” Problems of Communism, XIII, September-October 1974, 16-20.

Scalapino, Robert A. “The Struggle for Mao and the Future,” Orbis, 21, No. 1, Spring 1977, 29-44.

Service, John S. “Edgar Snow: Some Personal Reminiscences,” China Quarterly [London], No. 50, April-June 1972, 209-19.

Solomon, Richard H. Mao’s Revolution and the Chinese Political Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.

Starr, John Bryan. “Chinese Politics 1973-76: From the l0th Party Congress to the Premiership of Hua Kuo-feng: The Significance of the Colour of the Cat,” China Quarterly [London], No. 67, September 1976, 457-88.

Teiwes, Frederick C. “Reports from China: Before and After the Cultural Revolution,” China Quarterly [London], No. 58, April May 1974, 332-48.

Terrill, Ross. “China in the 1980s,” Foreign Affairs, 58, No. 4, Spring 1980, 920-35.

——. 800,000,000: The Real China. Boston: Little, Brown, 1972.

Terrill, Ross (ed.). The China Difference. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.

Thaxton, Ralph. “On Peasant Revolution and National Resistance: Toward a Theory of Peasant Mobilization and Revolutionary War with Special Reference to Modern China,” World Politics, 30, No. 1, October 1977, 24-57.

Tung, Chi-ming (comp.). An Outline History of China. (Originally published in Peoples’ Republic of China by Foreign Languages Press in 1958 and 1959.) Hong Kong: Joint Publishing, 1979.

Uhalley, Stephen, Jr. Mao Tse-tung: A Critical Biography. New York: New Viewpoints, 1975.

Walder, Andrew G. “Methodological Note: Press Accounts and the Study of Chinese Society,” China Quarterly (London], No. 79, September 1979, 568-92.

Wang, Ting. “The Succession Problem,” Problems of Communism, 22, No. 3, May-June 1973, 13-24.

Whiting, Allen S. “New Light on Mao: Quemoy 1958: Mao’s Miscalculations,” China Quarterly [London], No. 62, Junc 1975, 263-70.

Whitson, William W. Chinese Military and Political Leaders and the Distribution of Power in China, 1956-1971 . (R-1091-DOS/ARPA June 1973. A report prepared for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Department of State.) Santa Monica: Rand Corporation, June 1973.

Wich, Richard. “The Tenth Party Congress: The Power Structure and the Succession Question,” China Quarterly (London], No. 58, April-May 1974, 231-48.

Wilson, Dick (ed.). Mao Tse-tung in the Scales of History. (A preliminary assessment organized by China Quarterly.) London: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Wu, Yuan-li (ed.). China: A Handbook. New York: Praeger, 1973. Zhongguo Shouce. Hong Kong: Ta Kung Pao, 1979.

(Various issues of the following periodicals were also used in the preparation of this chapter: Beijing Review [Beijing], March 10, 1978-June 2, 1980; Far Eastern Economic Review [Hong Kong], August 3, 1979-March 17, 1980; Financial Times [London], January 1978-September 1980; Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Report: People’s Republic of China [Washington], September 1978-August 1980; joint Publications Research Service: China Report, Political, Sociological and Military Affairs [Washington], January 1979-June 1980; and Washington Post, September ( August 1977 – 1980).

#acehistorynews, #history2research, #ilovehistoryandresearch-2, #beijing, #ccp, #chairman-mao, #china, #china-quarterly, #chinese, #communist-party-of-china, #john-k-fairbank, #korean-war, #mao, #mao-era, #mao-tsctung, #mao-zedong, #new-york, #north-korea, #soviet, #soviet-union, #taiwan, #united-nations

“Tradition of New Years Eve and New Years Day”

#AceHistoryNews says the olde traditions seem to keep us healthy and happy every “Christmas and New  Year” and these simply word’s spoken by hundreds and thousands in a few hours time will say just a simple ” Happy and Prosperous New Year” but how did it all come about.

History of New Year’s Eve

New Years Eve ClockNew Year’s Eve is December 31 of every year.  It is celebrated in countries that use the Gregorian calendar with the United States, Australia, British Isles, North & South America, Europe, Scandinavia and (the former) Soviet Union as the main regions in the world who welcome in a new year.

It is exactly at the stroke of midnight on December 31 of the current year that marks the transition to the New Year ahead.  Celebrations may be wild parties or solemn times of prayer.  Some participants will dress up in silly outfits and wear comical hats, drink champagne (or other liquors of their choice) and use traditional items called “noisemakers” to express their joy and hope for the new year ahead.  Unfortunately, with some people this celebratory behavior gets taken a bit too far.  Some people have been known to make improper advances to co-workers at parties, throw their arms around total strangers on the streets or in crowds and well perhaps to other things that would be considered totally unacceptable any other day of the year.

And yet, there are others who attend midnight masses at their church or synagogue; or, get together in large crowds such as New York City’s Time Square to watch the “ball drop.”  In London crowds gather in Trafalgar Square to count down the closing of the old year and welcome in the new. In Atlanta, Georgia (USA) a giant Peach is dropped.  This began as a competition with New York’s Apple.  However, today New York now drops a laser and hand-cut crystal ball.

Some historians feel that our New Year’s Eve celebrations can be traced back to an ancient Roman observance around the time of the Winter Solstice in December called “Saturnalia.”  This pagan holiday was known for totally letting go all discipline and rules for behavior and was known to get out of hand (just like some New Year’s Eve celebrations today).

In the 18th century, New Year’s Eve revelry in cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore often ended with street demonstrations, violence, and vandalism.  Groups of men and boys were known to toot tin horns, shout, scream,  yell, set off firecrackers, knock down barricades such as fences and gates, break windows and (in a few cases) burglarize the homes of some wealthy citizens in the area.

To help curb the problem of over-zealous celebrators  on December 31, and to protect those who want to bring in the New Year quietly, many cities in the United States started a popular trend called “The First Night” celebrations. The first “First Night” was held in Boston in 1976 to replace the boisterous partying with cultural events, performances,  and  non-alcoholic  beverages with food in an outdoor setting.  

For those who prefer to have a very quiet New Year, many stay home and watch the “dropping ball” or fireworks offered on television stations both locally and/or nationally or worldwide simultaneously.

 Auld Lang Syne is our midi.  The custom of singing this song on New Years Eve goes back to the British Isles from the 18th century when guests ended a party standing in a circle and singing this song.  The custom first was rooted in Scotland, because the lyrics were written in 1788 by Robert Burns, their favorite folk poet of the time.  (Later on another version of this song was used in 1783 in the opera “Rosina” by William Shield.) But most musicologists feel that Auld Lang Syne came from a traditional Scottish folk melody.

What does this song mean?  In the Scottish dialect, auld lang syne  is “old long since” — aka “the good old days.”   The traditional lyrics begin with, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind…”  And the entire song’s message merely means to just forget about the past and look ahead to the new year with hope.  Even the rowdies of parties has often ended with quiet drunks singing this song as a tribute to the past year.  But many of us sing it without really now what we are saying, we just sing it to be part of the auld lang gang of the night! 🙂

Using noise to welcome in a new year goes back to ancient times when it was felt that noise scared off evil spirits.  Imagine what our ancestors would have thought about all the high-tech speakers, amplifiers and such today? To them, the world would be pretty pure with all this noise! 🙂   But very few of us link New Years with evil spirits ( spirits that you drink perhaps but not any other kind), they still feel noisemakers are a must for New Year’s parties.  In Denmark, they “smash in the new year” by banging on the doors of their friends’ homes and throwing pieces of broken pottery against the sides of the houses.  Now if everyone is out doing this, then well…hey is anyone home to even notice?  In Japan,  dancers go from house to house at Oshogatsu making strange noises and rattling and pounding bamboo sticks and banging on drums.  In many parts of the US, firecrackers are set off at midnight to mark the new year.  This is also the main celebration in Viet Nam, Hawaii and South America.


Basically,  an old man or even Father Time is the symbol of  the year that is coming to a close.  And, a baby then becomes the symbol for the new year ahead. 


These serve as metaphors for death of one calendar year and the birth of a new one.

History of New Years Day

Happy New Year 2104January 1 st  is considered New Years Day in today’s society.  But this is a new concept because up until the time of Julius Caesar, the Romans celebrated the New Year in March because it was the first month in the Roman calendar.  However,  January 1 marked the time when the Romans changed their governmental figures and new consuls were inducted into office.  And, they had games and feasting to help celebrate the new officials.  But, they still used March 1 as their official mark of the new year and had a festival to their god, Mars (God of War).  

It was Caesar who changed the Roman New Year’s Day to January 1 in honour of Janus,  (God of all beginnings and gate-keeper of heaven and earth).  Janus was always depicted with two faces: One looking back to the old year (past) and one looking ahead to the new year (future).   One of the customs in the festival honoring Janus was to exchange gifts and then make resolutions to be friendly and good to one another.

When Constantine ruled the Romans and accepted Christianity as their new faith, they kept the Festival of Janus as the New Years Day ( Not March as before) and turned it into a day of prayer and fasting and not parties etc.  It was a day for all good Christians to turn over a new leaf.   However,  the Romans may have accepted January 1 and Janus as the New Year, but many did not accept the turning over a new leaf, prayer and fasting part of it.

However, even in 1582, Great Britain and the English colonies in America still kept  March for the beginning of the year.  (Spring as a beginning?)   It wasn’t until 1752 that Britain (and it’s colonies) adopted the new Gregorian calendar and January 1 as the beginning of the year.  But many Puritans in New England felt Janus was an offensive pagan god and chose to simply ignore January 1 as a New Years Day.  Instead they just made the entire month of January as “The First  Month”  of the months.

And, today no one really considers January 1 a fasting day.  Ironically, for many it is a major day of feasting on junk food and watching football games on television.

How did New Year’s Resolutions all begin?

Once again, we go back to the wild and crazy parties of the ancient Romans. 🙂  They indulged themselves in alcoholic and sexual excess as a way of acting out all the chaos that they hoped a new year would get rid of.  So, the New Year’s festival was a way to start over.  By purging yourself of all this so-called excess energy and confessing your sins,  there was a hope that  you would be much better in the next year ahead.

Now, the Puritans never did approve of all this New Year’s hoopla.  So of course they went for this religious renewal of cleanse, purge, fast,  confess idea.  So they encouraged young people not to waste the new year on foolish things but to use it as an opportunity to make a good change in their lives for the good.  So, like some Christians, they made New Year’s vows or pledges focused on overcoming their own weaknesses, to enhance their god-given talents and to make them better citizens to others.

The custom of making New Year’s Resolutions came into vogue in the 20th century.  But most of it was done with jest and an understanding that they would not be kept (for long anyway) since humans were naturally backsliders by nature to their naughty habits and ways.

The  resolutions today are simply a secular version of the religious vows made in the past toward spiritual perfection.  They are often made with good intentions and broken with a sense of humor and renewed annually.



#acehistorynews, #history2research, #ilovehistoryandresearch-2, #auld-lang-syne, #british-isles, #gregorian-calendar, #happy-and-prosperous-new-year, #happy-new-year, #new-year, #new-years-eve, #new-york, #new-york-city, #philadelphia, #robert-burns, #time-square, #united-states, #winter-solstice